Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sliding into Real Life and Stealing Home…

There was a big NY Times magazine article a couple of weeks ago about how your late twenties is like [sic]the worst time to be alive. Sing it sister.

Captain Obvious, the NYT, portrays the latter twenties as a time of general generational fear. No shit NYT. For the past two nights I’ve had nightmares about being on a plane that crashes into a bunch of skyscrapers right after take-off and you’re telling me that I’m scared about something? What fancy Ivy League school granted you an MBO – a Master’s in the Business of Obviousness?

According to Dr. Google my dreams can be interpreted as follows: I have high expectations for myself and am concerned that they’re not going anywhere. I like to think that the plane is evocative of my career; I am psychologically afraid about failure to launch.

While I’m willing to chalk up such alarming and overly dramatic dreams to my own neuroses there is some circumstantial evidence that being late twenty-ish isn’t the walk in Central Perk that Friends made it seem.

Sometimes it feels like going from 22 to 28 is like crossing the Rubicon from a happy-go-lucky city-state that sniffs glue into full-blown Empire that has mortgage payments on its far-flung colonies AND has to deal with the Senate that is its student loan payments [that’s a reference to Caesar that doesn’t fully work, just go with it].

Now before I get heckled for being one of those bitchy people who says stuff like: “5 years is so much older; I’m so mature and wise” let me tap in to save myself and admit that yes, everyone looks at someone five years younger and says, wow I’ve grown up so much in the last five years, I was so immature then. Just ask my sister, Bold Sharon, who is seven years older than me. While I can be found nursing a hangover most Saturday mornings, she can be found nursing her two children. So when I ask her if she likes my new haircut, she genuinely closes her eyes, takes a moment to pause while probably thinking: my brother is so immature, why does he smell like gin?

Five years is major at 18 and you look back at your geeky bar-mitzvah photo’s. Those seminal five years probably included such important life stages such as pubic hair. And truthfully at 27 – am I really that mature compared to my 23 year-old self? Not really… I mean, throw me into an open bar reception and I’m liable to get the slurs before midnight.

But still there is something about being closer to 30 then not. And I realize of course that being 27 or 28 isn’t really old. 30 is old. Just joking! Neither is old [especially since we’re all going to live to like 110], and yet – I would be remiss to not notice that there are vast different between being fresh out of college grasping an undergraduate degree and being 28 and fresh out of grad school. Something happens in those five years which make life a little bit more serious.

I ran into the daughter of a family friend the other day who is 23. She’s moving to New York to take some classes in design and then start her career in fashion; this is after spending the year in between her philosophy degree and grad school picking fruit in Australia. What is she most looking forward to? “Beginning real life…”
And that’s the trick really… at 23 you can still get away with living at home and eating fruit that your parents purchased from Harvest Wagon. Heck at 23 maybe your mom still takes you to Club Monaco every once in a while and buys you a nice new outfit. Life can be that much more frivolous when you’re 23.

By 28 that shit is cut off. Suddenly you realize that most of the people who are winning Teen Choice awards aren’t your age; they’re younger then you and they’ve achieved more success then you have or probably ever will. Not to say that aging is really the problem per se. Its not like I’ve booked myself a botox appointment for my 28th birthday.
At 23 the world is sort of your oyster; but by 28 you’re expected to have it all figured out, even if you don’t. This sense of listlessness coupled with anxiety has been identified by psychologists as the new life stage of “emerging adulthood”. Thrust into the world with a graduate degree and supposed maturity a 28 year-old isn’t really that different from your typical 23 year-old, yet there’s a looming sense that we should be. Psychologist Jeffrey Arnett, who coined the term emerging adulthood, feels that twenty-something angst is deeply related to “the age 30 deadline.” That period is psychologically when we’re supposed to make life-altering choices about marriage, careers, babies etc...

I’m not sure this generational anxiety is simply about the age 30 deadline; rather it’s the fact that real life gets that much more complex as you wade through your twenties. I call this complexity the mail barometer. When I moved back home after university I cancelled my hydro, locked my apartment door for the last time and left the key in the mailbox. My most recent move required like twenty different address changes: OSAP, multiple banks, multiple visa cards, financial advisors, RRSP’s… I’m exhausted already; can’t I just watch Gossip Girl and eat pizza for dinner?

Remember when you were 8 and wondered when you were going to start getting mail like your mom and dad? That’s what being 28 is. You get mail. And most of that mail is money related.

But the root problem of being an emergent adult may be that you’re caught with one foot in the world of being a 23 year old who just wants to binge drink on weekends with another foot deeply entrenched into the mountain that is adulthood.

Straddling this chasm not only isn’t very fun; it is also exhausting. It may also lead to a groin injury and that is just simply bad for business.

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